Thursday, May 31, 2012

And a child shall lead them: The children of the series

Today I’ve been thinking about the children that appeared on the series. Teenagers were frequent (and sometimes aggravating) visitors, but actual, young children were a more rare sight. Sometimes they were talked about but not seen. Other times they were shown but didn’t play a significant role in the plot.

Even more rare is when Perry or other main characters interact with children on a steady basis in an episode. I believe the first important child character appeared in season 1’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, but I don’t recall that any of the main characters had any extensive interaction with him, if any at all. There is the important scene in the epilogue, where Perry decides not to tell one of the leading guest-stars that the little boy is not actually his grandson. Perry can’t see that it would serve any purpose, and might instead destroy a beautiful relationship that’s just beginning to form, so he holds his tongue. Della seems to be in favor of his decision.

A child is a central focus of the plot in season 2’s The Deadly Toy, which is also one of the darkest episodes throughout the series. One of the main conundrums is what has become of young David Selkirk and what he might have seen or done on the night his father was killed. Perry begins to wonder if the boy could have seen the murder. He devises a plan to get David’s regular baby-sitter to come to him so he can see if she’s the woman reported to have taken David to parts unknown. Upon finding she isn’t, he casually draws information from her. David was apparently allowed to play with a gun in the house, which was usually but not always kept empty. Perry then starts to wonder if David could have pulled the trigger the night his father died.

Two children interact with Perry and Della in this episode. First, Perry’s plan to talk with the baby-sitter is to pretend he and Della are married and have a young child. Della gets one from a friend of hers. There’s an adorable scene where Perry tries to get the toddler to come to him and she crawls on over. Perry then picks her up. Della also holds her, although mainly to put her back in the crib, as Della promised not to spoil her.

Later, Perry and Della finally find David and talk with him. David is friendly and proudly shows Della that he can wiggle his ears. Della is impressed and asks him to show her how to do it, thus distracting him and getting him out of the room while Perry talks with the woman looking after him.

The young actor’s real name is David too, I noticed in the cast. I see that a lot on shows where very small children are featured. I think I read that it’s a way to not get the kid confused, since even though he’s acting he’s being called by his real name.

I can’t recall a young kid having an important part to play in an episode again until season 5’s The Borrowed Baby, and that gives us quite possibly our youngest guest-star ever. The titular character is left in a basket on Perry’s desk. Della volunteers to take care of him until they can sort out the mystery surrounding him and his family. Over the course of the episode she bonds very deeply with little Leander and is heartbroken to have to give him up at the end, despite being happy that he finally gets to go with his mother.

Della is completely a natural at taking care of Leander. Meanwhile, Paul displays complete awkwardness and ineptitude around him, from worrying he’ll drop the kid to telling Della she should ask Leander if the milk is too hot for him. But Leander seems to like him, reaching out for him at one point and later, sitting on his lap. Paul seems quite at ease in the later scene, interestingly enough. Perhaps throughout the episode’s events he’s had to get used to having a baby around and no longer feels as awkward or concerned as he did.

Perry doesn’t have any particular interaction with Leander that I can recall, aside from greeting him a couple of times (and perhaps holding him or his basket once or twice). And one of my only regrets about the episode is that Hamilton didn’t have any interaction with Leander whatsoever. Hamilton does show repulsion when it seems the murder victim was involved in a baby-selling racket, however.

In season 8 Perry protests having young Button stay with him while her divorcing parents duke it out in court, saying that he’s had no experience with children due to being a bachelor. Perhaps so, but he is very sensitive to their feelings.

This is clearly depicted in season 7’s The Shifty Shoebox. Perry is concerned for Miles, an eight-year-old foster child whom he meets on his current case, recognizing that the boy longs for a place to feel he belongs. He also senses that Miles is hiding a secret and is afraid of something, and tries repeatedly to get through his shell and draw out what’s bothering him. That is a large part of the episode’s plot, as what Miles saw directly bears on everything. Perry finally does reach him, with Della’s help.

The epilogue finds him more open and happy, both from telling his secret and bonding with the distant relative who most recently took him in. He drags Paul up all the stairs and wants Perry to go down the back stairs with him.

Button’s episode, the season 8 opener The Missing Button, features the precocious Button Blake, caught in the middle of a heart-wrenching custody battle. She and Perry seem to already know each other as the episode opens, and are on friendly terms. She also is impressed by Paul being a detective and finding people (“Like Dick Tracy?” she chirps, much to his bewilderment).

This episode may arguably be even darker than The Deadly Toy, due to the climax. A woman teetering on the brink of insanity and a breakdown takes Button and eventually tries to lift her over a bridge and fling her to the traffic below. Perry and company arrive in time, however, and the woman herself is struggling against her evil impulses. She at last releases Button, pleading for Della to take her before she does something horrible to the girl.

In the epilogue everyone is happy and going to dinner. Button, with her parents reunited due to what they’ve come through, runs into Perry’s arms in delight.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen it, but I remember a child also appearing in season 9’s The Fugitive Fraulein. It’s an intense topical episode, featuring Perry going behind the Iron Curtain trying to reunite a family separated by the Berlin Wall. Perry had, I believe, one or two scenes with the child, but without the sort of substantial content of some of the other episodes with him and kids. What I most remember is that he tries to give the girl a doll from her grandparents and she isn’t allowed to have it. He is angry over the incident.

At the moment I can’t think of any other times when young children played a significant part in episodes, although it seems like there may be another one, one that my station has skipped and that I haven’t otherwise seen again yet due to Hamilton’s absence in it.

One thing I feel was a slight was that Hamilton never interacted with any of the young kids who popped up. I know that his interaction with them would be absolutely adorable, judging from how gentle he is with the youngest witnesses he’s examined. In The Vagabond Vixen he even implores Perry to remember that the eponymous character is scarcely more than a child.

Hamilton and Miles are in the same scene in The Shifty Shoebox, at least, and Hamilton shows definite concern for Miles when he finds out that the titular object has Miles’ guardian’s fingerprints on it, but they are not directly shown speaking to each other.

It was The Shifty Shoebox and my desire to see Hamilton interact with a kid that inspired me to invent the character of Howie Peterson, who eventually becomes Hamilton’s godson. Their interaction is explored extensively in my mystery The Macabre Mansion, and is also featured in the succeeding stories The Broken Ties and The Spectral Stalker.

(Incidentally, I have posted the last of my May fanfiction theme project today. All of the short scenes filling in gaps in The Broken Ties are here at this link, for those interested:

I’m going to be attempting to do the themes for June as well. They’re all from the poems of J.R.R. Tolkien, so they’re too wonderful to pass up. I will be tinkering with an idea of mine concerning the hidden enemy from The Broken Ties, Florence, enacting her plans and taking over Earth as a dark queen. It’s going to be a strange ride. But if I like what comes out of it, I will probably use the scenes in a full-fledged multi-chapter story in the future. I can promise right now that Sergeant Brice and David Gideon will both play a part in the events. Haha, of all the ways I could have let David appear in one of my stories, I never thought it would be like this.

The tentative title for the scenes will be “Lux Aeterna”, The Eternal Light.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Male secretaries: always the bad guys?!

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

It has been my increasing suspicion that male secretaries really get a bad rap on Perry. After seeing it confirmed for the third time, I decided it was time to make an official write-up.

Frankly, I am bewildered by the trend. Every time we’ve seen a male secretary, it seems that he’s a crook in some way, whether or not he’s the murderer. What’s the deal? Were they so rare in those days, perhaps even often misunderstood in a career position usually filled by women, that it seemed an intriguing thing to make them the bad guys? It doesn’t seem to have been confined solely to Perry, either; I saw another one in the Lady Beryl episode of the Ronald Howard version of Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, there were crooked women secretaries on Perry too, but at least with them we also saw many who were good. At this point I can only think of one good male secretary, and we never actually saw him! (For that matter, we don’t even know for sure if he’s a secretary, although it seemed to be strongly implied.)

Our first introduction to a male secretary was William Schallert’s character in episode 5, The Sulky Girl. Though not the murderer, he was aware of the murder and was an accessory. He called out the window, pretending to be the dead man in order to give the illusion that he was still alive, and allowed an innocent person to be tried for the murder.

Next there was a male secretary in season 2’s The Spanish Cross. Also an accessory, he stole the titular object and was aware of who murdered his boss, but said nothing. And he even said that he liked the boy who ended up accused of both the theft and the murder. Cheap wretch; he certainly had a brilliant way of showing it!

And just the other night I saw Charles Aidman play a male secretary in The Gallant Grafter. He was the actual murderer. He was also carrying on with the wife of his boss. That poor man, he had to deal with the double blows of both his wife and his friend and secretary betraying him! And when he was accused of murder, it was due to a frame those two set up.

All three male secretaries seemed like very likable people at first. I was disappointed in all of them, though perhaps particularly William Schallert’s character. Quiet and unassuming, he seemed a meek soul, not someone who would be involved in criminal activities. Of course, that’s often a type to watch out for in mysteries.

I’m unsure if there are any other male secretaries actually seen on the series. Can anyone here think of any? Were there ever any who were good guys? I suppose I could count the General’s trusty aide in The Positive Negative, but I didn’t think he was ever actually referred to as a secretary (although he likely handled many similar duties).

With so many rotten apples, it’s all the more reason why Hamilton’s supposed secretary Leon should have been shown. There should have been at least one decent male secretary to represent the profession.

Albeit, to get technical, we know so little about Leon that it’s possible he’s no good either. But it’s much nicer to think that he’s an honest person, for more reasons than one. Hamilton is put down so much in the series that he certainly doesn’t need another blow in the form of a dishonest secretary. And I really like the idea that Leon is as important and loyal to Hamilton as Della is to Perry, where work-related matters are concerned.

As a parting, I have always loved to make “fan art” for my favorite series as well as fanfiction. It’s difficult for me to illustrate any live-action show, but I’ve really wanted to try. Hence, several weeks ago I tackled the idea and fought to draw a decent Hamilton and my image of Leon. I had to re-draw Hamilton several times before it looked halfway good. Leon was much easier, but he didn’t come out exactly as I’d wanted. Further details on the link, for anyone interested:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Character development and season 3

The Prudent Prosecutor was on last night. I’ve been looking forward to it for months so I could finally record the first few minutes. The last time it was on, I hadn’t expected it, so I had to run around madly for a tape. (Oh, I hate when that happens.)

It was a delight to see it again, as it always is. And I was struck once more by what an important milestone it is on the road to character development.

As mentioned before, it is often mistakenly considered the only time Perry and Hamilton teamed up to solve a case. It isn’t; it’s just the first real time it happened. It’s also not even the only time Hamilton has asked Perry for help, as he expressly does it again in season 7’s The Accosted Accountant.

Hamilton’s awkwardness in The Prudent Prosecutor is adorably endearing. At this point he and Perry have become quite friendly, at least certainly compared to season 1, yet he still feels uneasy about asking Perry to defend Jefferson Pike. But they’re close enough that he recognizes Perry’s gentle teasing for what it is and it puts him at ease.

I was thinking what a contrast it is to Hamilton’s behavior in the later seasons. By that point he has become extremely comfortable with his dual positions of district attorney and friend of a defense attorney. For instance, in season 8’s The Fatal Fetish, there is no hint of awkwardness whatsoever. He simply greets Perry with a Hello and matter-of-factly says he’s glad Perry’s there. (Of course, that happens during The Prudent Prosecutor as well, but there was also the awkwardness later.) This sort of approach is very common in seasons 7 and 8, and in season 9 when the writers are paying attention.

It’s very enjoyable and intriguing to watch his character grow in this way. I love it when characters change for the better throughout the course of a series, instead of simply remaining static. And of all the main characters, I do believe Hamilton is really the only one who has such immense development. The others stay mostly the same over all nine seasons, except for Perry himself, who does tone down the law-bending escapades that get Hamilton so upset. Della, Paul, and the police basically don’t have any level of expanding development—although Andy does go from being Tragg’s stand-in to a well-rounded character in his own right. But I consider that more of the writers finally getting their footing with the character.

Paul is the only other one whose feelings can sometimes be a mystery, as far as I’m concerned. At least, certainly his feelings towards Hamilton. It’s true that he does tone down the amount of negative comments he makes in season 1, and he does seem friendly when Hamilton joins them in a casual light (particularly in The Purple Woman), but it remains true that every time he mentions Hamilton, it seems to be in a rather derogatory manner. I had hoped that perhaps the events of Paul Drake’s Dilemma would change his mind, but I honestly can’t tell whether or not it made much difference. If he really dislikes Hamilton as much as he seemed to in season 1, it might take a great deal to fully change that.

All the way in season 8, in The Lover’s Gamble, Paul makes a remark concerning Hamilton that certainly made me raise an eyebrow. When the defendant (who, by the way, is a young friend of Della’s) presents Perry with a painting she has made of him, Paul says, “You know, I bet even Hamilton Burger would like one of those. Perry Mason, hanging … in oil.” Clearly he’s not really talking about the painting. And considering how friendly Perry and Hamilton are by season 8, the remark really doesn’t make much sense. In season 1 it would have, considering that one of Hamilton’s most off-the-wall comments to Perry was that if he had his way, Perry would be facing fire and brimstone. But by season 8 he just doesn’t say things like that. He’s matured greatly by then. And he never wanted anything to happen to Perry, not even, I’m sure, in season 1, despite whatever impulsive comments he made.

Hamilton in the television series just wasn’t ever the fellow in the books who would “pass up three murder convictions just to get Perry arrested for littering” or whatever that was that Tragg said once in the books. Book-Tragg was hopefully exaggerating, but in any case, television series-Hamilton would never dream of such a miscarriage of justice.

It’s equally possible that the writers just slipped up with Paul, as they occasionally did with everyone. His occasional silent and apparent friendliness towards Hamilton has to be taken into account too. (And there’s also how he got such a kick out of Hamilton citing Perry for burning trash without a license in The Blushing Pearls, after Paul had kept telling Perry he would get in trouble for his arson. Paul cracking up over what Hamilton opted to do was definitely unexpected. Although that may have been more because he felt triumphant to have been right, rather than because he felt alright towards Hamilton.) Or maybe he just has kind of a twisted sense of humor, as Tarlonniel suggested to me, and that remark in season 8 was not really meant to be as derogatory as the stuff he said and meant in season 1. There are many possibilities.

Hamilton seems to have no desire to have Paul on the rocks with him. My favorite scene in that aforementioned Bartered Bikini episode has him questioning Paul as a witness. Hamilton is never the least bit mocking or sneering, but dead sober. Paul is very serious and calm, and I think you can tell he doesn’t want to be there, but he’s a professional and doesn’t act out. Hamilton is visibly relieved. At the conclusion he thanks Paul for his cooperation and for not forcing him to treat Paul as a hostile witness. I definitely had the sense that he had been honestly concerned about how the examination would go. I can’t recall any of the other specific times Paul was on the witness stand, but I think there was at least one around season 6. I don’t think it was as fascinating as this one, however.

For the most part I have been very happy with season 3 and its moments of character development. Sometimes it unfortunately backslides, such as in The Singing Skirt, but overall it is fairly consistent. That is a surprise to me. I hadn’t remembered it was so good!

My only regret is that we are almost to The Crying Cherub on my local station. Le sigh.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Double Birthday Post!

Tomorrow is Raymond Burr’s birthday! He was born on May 21st, 1917, in New Westminster, British Columbia. I have a reason for posting a day early, contrary to my original plans, and I will reveal that further on.

I’ve been pondering on exactly what to share in this post in honor of him. Usually on either the birth or death date posts, I’ve tried to give a bit of biographical information for the actors. But so much about Raymond seems to have been tall tales that I’ve all but given up on figuring out which is fact and which is fiction.

I’m rather amused by the stories he spun about himself. If he was trying to keep himself a near-complete mystery to the general public, he certainly succeeded. I can imagine him being amused himself as he thought of the various tales to weave.

EDIT: Okay, so the above would seem to be, from all known instances, incorrect. I won't change what I wrote, because then the comment session that follows below the entry won't make much sense.

Raymond seemed to not want to call a lot of attention to himself. He didn’t even want his vineyard named after him. I believe I read that he thought that would be too pretentious. After his death, his partner did rename the vineyard after him. I think it’s a nice memorial touch. But it impresses me that Raymond didn’t want that during his life.

From all that I’ve read, he was a friendly, compassionate man. As I’ve mentioned, I love how he made the Perry set such an enjoyable place. He was also quite a practical jokester. In addition to the brick wars and other amusing nonsense he had going with William Talman, he was often pranking Barbara Hale. According to her, once he even nailed her shoes to the floor of the courtroom set!

I haven’t seen anything else that he has been in since I made that post about the film Please Murder Me sometime back. However, I don’t think I ever mentioned that prior to that I saw a movie he made with Errol Flynn, Maru Maru. It was an adventure flick, with them in search of a jeweled cross. Raymond plays the bad guy, as he typically did in many of the films he did before Perry, and he is excellent, of course.

. . . And he was in Love Happy?! The same Love Happy that was the Marx Brothers’ last film? I think it’s time to dig that film out again. I haven’t seen it for years, probably not since I really became aware of Perry Mason.

I have seen some of his TV appearances, including the very first episode of Dragnet. He played the police chief. It was a very intense episode as it was, and Raymond made it even more interesting.

I have also watched more of Ironside. While I think Perry is my favorite of the two crime-solvers, Robert Ironside is awesome too. My favorite of the episodes I’ve seen so far is probably the one where it’s revealed that he had a relationship with a woman who can’t seem to stop being a thief. That caused them to part in the past, and when they meet again in the present, it isn’t able to last long then, either. It’s a very well-written and bittersweet episode. Raymond portrays Ironside’s conflicting feelings to perfection. My only complaint about the episode is that Wesley Lau is in it but they never arranged for him and Raymond to interact. What a missed opportunity. I hope they had a nice reunion off-screen, at least!

We lost Raymond on September 12th, 1993. While he is buried in Canada, I believe there’s a memorial to him in one of the Los Angeles cemeteries. It’s nice when that sort of thing is done.

Raymond is still highly missed. He made the character of Perry Mason his own. Robert Ironside, too. And many assorted oneshot characters on television series and in movies.

On the 50th Anniversary DVDs, Barbara Hale reveals that she met Raymond in the 1940s, sometime before Perry. In fact, it was partially Raymond being a part of Perry that made Barbara decide to give it a try (that, and she thought they were only going for 17 episodes. Ha!). She says that she and Raymond were dear friends for fifty years. And that is a beautiful thing. Friendships often don’t last even half as long as that. She also mentions that her kids all called him “Uncle Ray.” Adorable!

On Perry and also Ironside, Raymond’s stand-in was actor Lee Miller. Eerily enough, Lee was born May 18th, 1917! (And from the scant information I’ve found, he may still be alive. That is awesome!) Born just three days apart? Wow. This has just come to my attention now, and I feel badly that I didn’t know in time to have dedicated Thursday’s post to Lee. I think Raymond would be happy to share this post with Lee, who most likely became one of his friends after so many appearances. So I have decided to post it today, between their birthdays, and dedicate it to them both.

Us Perry fans should be very familiar with Lee, as he appeared many times on-screen as Sergeant Brice (and a few times in other small parts). Although credited only 50-plus times, he was in many episodes uncredited. This may be because of Brice’s customary silence. He was often seen and not heard. I was actually surprised the first time I heard him speak!

There are several episodes where he has some interesting interaction with Tragg or one of the other Lieutenants. Brice was there through it all, with them all, from Tragg to Andy to Steve. He is an unsung hero, largely forgotten in the overall picture, yet he is so often there for those willing to look.

Usually Brice is a background character, content to let the Lieutenant take the lead. One season 3 episode I saw in the past week or two had Tragg expounding something in the crime scene to Brice. That happens in several episodes, but in this one they had more conversation than they typically do, so I found it especially memorable.

I just saw one again the other day where he has a more expanded role. In The Ugly Duckling, Brice calls Perry to tell him about his client’s car going over a cliff. Perry arrives at the scene and continues to converse with Brice until Andy shows up moments later. I found that one particularly interesting. I wonder what prompted the writers to give Brice more lines than usual?

Although Brice was almost always played by Lee, there were a couple of times early on where someone else took the reins. It always gives me a bit of a start to see another man called Brice wander on-screen. I like that the role later became Lee’s alone. It adds a nice bit of continuity, which is especially refreshing for a fairly minor character such as Brice.

It’s a pity the writers didn’t do more with him. He could have been very interesting in scenes with the Lieutenants, developing both his and their characters. But I am happy that the writers at least occasionally ventured out and gave him more to say and do than usual. The rest, well, that is up to fanfiction writers.

To Raymond and Lee, happy birthday from the fans who love and remember you both!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Case of the Golden Fraud

As season 3 continues on my local station, I continue to be quite thrilled with it for the most part. I didn’t remember that there were so many exceptional episodes.

One I was looking forward to is The Golden Fraud. I wasn’t that crazy about it last year; I found it depressing when the solution to the mystery came out. (My goodness, the murderer’s mind is warped.) But I was anxious to see it again anyway, due to it being one of the episodes with a cat. I love cats and am always happy to see them appear in movies or television shows.

I had another reason to be interested. I remembered there was a scene in Hamilton’s office concerning the infamous tape that is at the center of everything. I wondered if Leon would be mentioned. He wasn’t, but it turned out to be one of my most favorite scenes in the episode.

It starts out with Sylvia Welles, the owner of the kitty, setting up what she claims is a prank for a friend’s 10th wedding anniversary. She wants a conversation between him and her recorded and later cut and spliced so it comes out sounding like they’re having an affair. The guy she’s hired gets the equipment ready to go and then leaves with the tape running. She proceeds to call the man she wants to see—Richard Vanaman. In reality she has been doing business with him, claiming to be a client. Although he and his wife had been going to a gathering at someone’s house, he determines that he will have to see what Sylvia wants. His wife is unhappy but doesn’t try to stop him.

During their meeting at her apartment, her Siamese cat becomes very interested in the reports they’re studying. He then jumps down and runs across the room to where the microphone is. Richard sees it and is outraged and bewildered. Sylvia claims her jealous husband must be bugging her apartment. Richard doesn’t believe it and leaves in anger.

It’s only after he’s back home that he realizes he lost a very valuable and rare coin that could be easily traced back to him. He leaves his bemused wife again and rushes to Sylvia’s apartment for the second time. He discovers in horror that she’s lying dead and the apartment manager is coming upstairs. He tries to hide, and then to run out, but he is seen.

He comes to Perry the next day, worried about a story in the paper concerning a gold coin that someone put into a parking meter. It sounds just like his coin. He asks if Perry can send someone to pick it up. It seems that he is seeking a vice president’s position at his place of work and his boss has an extreme aversion to publicity. (This boss also gave him the coin.) Perry knows his boss and agrees to have Paul go after the coin.

Along the way, Perry meets the apartment manager, who idolized Sylvia Welles and considered her an “angel”.

Paul goes to the police station to claim the coin, but a strange and flirty gal sashays in and claims the coin for herself after describing its unique features to a tee. She leaves her name and Paul overhears. Richard is told and goes to the girl’s apartment. Instead he walks into a trap set up by the apartment manager. He is then arrested by the police, who have been listening to the confrontation between Richard and the manager, at the manager’s permission.

Meanwhile, Rip Conners, who made the phony tape, calls Mrs. Petrie, the wife of the other man who wants the vice presidency in Richard’s company. She is interested in the tape and makes plans to come get it and pay him $1,000 for it. Her husband Fred comes home, however, and is horrified and appalled when she tells him that she’s going to use that tape to ensure that he becomes the vice president. He refuses to let her go get the tape. He calls Perry to tell him what’s going on.

The tape eventually falls into the hands of the police after Della tries to keep the appointment with Rip Conners. Tragg and Hamilton talk to Conners in Hamilton’s office as the tape is played. Hamilton is angry instead of grateful. He has heard a strange popping sound on the tape and has Tragg play it again, at a louder volume. With the noise clearly audible, Hamilton accuses Conner of splicing the tape and not using de-magnetized shears to do it. Conners admits it’s true but that adds that the part where Richard finds the microphone and is angry is also there and hasn’t been tampered with. Hamilton cools down and he and Tragg listen to that portion of the tape.

During the hearing Hamilton sees no reason for the phony part of the tape to be played, but wants the unchanged part heard and made part of the case. The judge agrees and it’s played.

Perry finds out that Richard’s wife didn’t go for a walk on the night of the murder, as she claimed, but she went to Sylvia’s apartment. She didn’t go inside because someone was outside the door, listening to something inside. She returned home. It’s observed that neither she nor Richard can give the other an alibi.

It finally comes out that Mrs. Petrie schemed with Sylvia Welles to make the phony tape because Mrs. Petrie wanted to get Richard involved in a scandal and discredit him from trying to obtain the vice presidency. Perry wants to hear the faux part of the tape. Hamilton is bewildered and protests, but the judge gives his consent and Hamilton goes back to his table with a bewildered shrug.

The apartment manager is on the witness stand at the time and there is a very interesting type of shot the show rarely used, where it shows the tape playing along with his stunned expression superimposed over it. Perry deduces that he is the mystery man Richard’s wife saw outside Sylvia’s apartment and that he overheard Conners playing the spliced tape. Believing it was real, his idolization of Sylvia was shattered and he killed her.

He says that his mother was the same way, and that he all but worshiped her as well, before he realized. Oh, not that he killed his mother, but he did kill Sylvia Welles.

There’s a very nice shot of the courtroom as Richard and his wife embrace.

The epilogue concerns Perry receiving one of the rare gold coins from the company president and deducing that he is going to have Richard and Fred continue to compete for the vice presidency.

Overall it’s quite an intense episode. I previously found it depressing that Sylvia was killed over something thought about her that wasn’t even true. I still do, somewhere, but she certainly wasn’t the “angel” she was thought of as being, even though she wasn’t having an affair with Richard. I think I mainly feel sorry for her poor kitty, clutching the chair and meowing in distress as he perched above her dead body. I hope he found a home with a better person.

Fred Petrie is played by Alan Hewitt, this time with much hair (a toupee?) and a good, strong set of morals. I believe Fred may be Alan’s only good guy character on Perry. He is a delight. Alan has long been one of my favorite character actors due to his roles in assorted Disney movies such as The Absent-Minded Professor and The Barefoot Executive. (Also, I see he played a district attorney in the film How to Murder Your Wife. I bet that’s fun. He would play a good D.A.)

Hamilton is wonderful throughout the episode. It was awesome that he heard the popping sound on the tape, even when the volume was low, and knew what it meant. He bawled Conners out for lying about the tape’s contents and not saying it was spliced.

And he is very congenial in court. Instead of arguing over the request of playing the phony part of the tape, he simply presents his confusion but doesn’t seem irritated when the judge decides to let Perry go ahead.

Another episode I was thrilled with is the next one, The Bartered Bikini. But it will have to be discussed next week sometime, at least. I won’t be posting on Sunday, as I need to post on Monday. This time we celebrate Raymond Burr’s birthday!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! Today, as promised, I am going to muse on Paul Drake’s Dilemma. But first, a brief follow-up on The Startled Stallion.

It’s interesting how the same scene can apparently come across differently to two separate people. I wasn’t bothered by Hamilton’s derogatory remarks (referred to as “snide” in the summary), at least not during the scene I was referencing. (Earlier on someone gave a false confession and Hamilton promptly accused Perry of setting it up. While some of the stuff Hamilton accuses him of has basis in fact, that doesn’t, so that was most unappreciated and strange.) Hamilton’s tone was quite calm and even, not really mocking or snide as it is sometimes. What he actually said was a comment on Perry’s antics seeming more suited to a country fair than a courtroom. I was kind of amused. (What Perry did there was rather shocking, although it certainly had the results he hoped for.) And the judge wasn’t reprimanding Hamilton, as I saw it. He just calmly said that the court had been informed of Perry’s plan. I was happy when Hamilton said that he was aware of that, still in a calm and mature tone.

On to Paul Drake’s Dilemma. It, along with The Prudent Prosecutor, was something I had longed to see for years, ever since learning of its existence from The Perry Mason TV Show Book. I’ll be honest in that I’ve never really been crazy about plots where someone in the main cast is accused of a crime and ends up in jail and on trial. For some reason, that’s one thing that tends to rub me the wrong way. I guess I hate seeing someone I really care about behind bars. (Although it’s not often as tense a situation on Perry as it is on more recent shows.) I made an exception for Paul Drake’s Dilemma, due to what I’d learned about how Hamilton behaves in it.

The episode concerns a hit-and-run accident, with the driver a son-in-law in a wealthy business family. Not wanting a lot of embarrassing publicity concerning the incident, the patriarch decides that they have to cover it up. And they’ll pay the widow off, secretly.

Frank Thatcher, the son-in-law, cooks up a phony story to feed Paul in order to get him to try to give the money to the widow. Paul falls for it at first, but after talking with the widow some of the puzzle pieces in Frank’s story fall out of place.

Now that he starts to realize he’s being used, Paul becomes furious. He seeks Frank out in the apartment of an old flame of his, an aspiring singer. Eventually they get into a fight, started by Frank. But the angry Paul says he’s glad Frank did that. He strikes back. Frank, however, soon clubs Paul over the head and leaves him unconscious on the floor.

Paul wakes up with a record playing over and over on the phonograph (a crucial detail later), the police pounding on the door, and Frank dead, shot twice with Paul’s gun.

Both Tragg and Hamilton are upset about the case. Tragg sadly wonders why Paul had to get mixed up in a mess like this in the first place. Hamilton tells Perry that, being a public servant, there’s not much he can do. He says this without Perry having said anything. And he is oh so clearly regretful and saddened. Perry is understanding of Hamilton’s position.

Perry and Paul have a wonderful friendship scene when Perry goes to talk with him. After Paul tells about what happened and the evidence stacked against him, including the fact that he has powder on his hands from recent shooting practice, he asks Perry if there’s anything else Perry wants to ask. The implication is that he wonders if Perry will ask if Paul killed Frank. But Perry just smiles and says the only doubts he has are what Paul will say when he sees the bill.

During the hearing Hamilton looks to Paul more than once, seeming to be absolutely agonized over having to prosecute him. Paul unfortunately remains deadpan, although at one point he looks away and then back again, possibly as though uncomfortable with Hamilton’s discomfort. Della, on the other hand, more clearly reacts to Hamilton’s feelings with her attentive expression.

The episode would have been a marvelous chance for a scene between Hamilton and Paul. They surely must have interacted; Hamilton had to talk with him before the hearing. But I’ve seen the uncut version of this episode and there is no such scene. I’m grateful for the silent exchanges between them, though. We’re left quite puzzled on Paul’s feelings, but Hamilton’s are apparent.

When he tells Perry to cross-examine one particularly damning witness, he speaks quietly and barely discernibly, just as he does many seasons later in The Positive Negative when he doesn’t want to prosecute the retired General. And while Perry cross-examines the apartment manager and scores a few points, Hamilton is in the background smiling and seeming to be enjoying it. When it concludes with the gallery laughing over the final point (concerning the shooting down of the manager’s faulty claim that he gets along well with everyone—except, it seems, his past four wives), Hamilton chuckles as well.

The episode winds to its conclusion when Perry points out the record being played in the murder room was a demo record and wonders how it ended up there. The singer’s manager finally confesses to the murder, due to Frank’s ill treatment of the girl through so many years. The girl, heartbroken, sobs on the railing of the witness stand.

One other source of disappointment to me is that Paul doesn’t have any speaking parts after the hearing starts, save for a brief conversation with Perry at the noon break. It’s Paul’s episode, and yet he doesn’t even appear in the epilogue. It almost seems as though the wealthy family is the real driving force behind the episode, as the epilogue involves Perry interacting with the patriarch.

It is a very good and rather chilling conclusion, as throughout the episode the man has been hindering the case and hiding evidence, believing that one of his children is the murderer. (He even buys the recording studio the girl is trying to sell her record to and then bribes her into refusing to help Perry and Paul as she previously said she would!) He calls Perry in the epilogue wanting to offer him a check. Perry tells him that even though Paul is “just a friend”, Perry never once doubted his innocence. (And they’re going to dinner. Paul will pay the bill and that is the fee for Perry defending him.) But this man is so far removed from reality that he believed every one of his children capable of committing murder. Perry tears the check in half and leaves.

I wonder if a subtle thing the episode tries to bring out is the good and bad of humanity. Not that every episode doesn’t do that to some extent, but it seems more prominent here, especially with that focus on it in the epilogue. We have the girl, who knows information that could help prove Paul innocent, refusing to help him because her career is suddenly at stake due to her recording studio being bought out. We have the wealthy patriarch, doing everything he can to not get his family name dragged through the mud because he doesn’t want bad publicity. And on the other hand we have Perry fully believing in Paul’s guiltlessness in the crime and Hamilton’s anguish over having to prosecute him.

(There are also shades of gray, in the murderer’s motive. His outrage over Frank Thatcher’s treatment of the girl, while not a justification for murder, still doesn’t rank him with the very worst of the Perry criminals.)

In spite of any flaws or things that could have been done different, the episode is well-written and amazing. And it’s a milestone episode in that we see how Hamilton reacts when really being faced with prosecuting one of these frustrating people he runs across time and again. It isn’t hard to believe that Paul would think Hamilton would gloat, especially after Paul’s vocal dislike of him in season 1. Instead, Hamilton’s behavior couldn’t have been further from that.

I’ve toyed off and on with the possibility of a short story involving missing scenes and unseen thoughts from that episode, particularly where Hamilton and Paul are concerned. After seeing the episode again I had enough inspiration to write it. It’s part of my current Livejournal writing project, and features Paul flashing back on the events while searching for Tragg in The Broken Ties. It will be posted there on the 21st, although I’m so pleased with it that it’s tempting to put it up today on

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Various Season 3 Musings

You may notice I stuck a fancy little header up here. I found that picture of Perry and Hamilton among my screengrabs, loved it, and decided I had to do something with it. And I thought maybe I’d toy with the idea of a header. It looks like I didn’t stretch it far enough, though; I see part of the original, lighter red header waving at the side. Oh well.

Yesterday was kind of a bizarre day and I haven’t come prepared with a topic. I’m not quite sure whether to make some commentary on an episode or talk about something at random.

My local station has gone into season 3 now and I’ve resumed recording, since I don’t have any season 3 DVDs. Syndication-cut episodes are better than no episodes at all! (And better than Hallmark-level cuts. Eeep.) So far I’m enjoying season 3, as I remembered I did. Hamilton has seemed quite peaceable and congenial so far. It’s always nice when the writers do that. And as always, he’s interested in justice above everything else.

According to Storrer’s episode guide, he makes some sort of derogatory comments in The Startled Stallion tonight, but that’s part of his personality too. And judging from the context surrounding his complaint, I can’t say I blame him for being upset. Apparently Perry unleashed one of his courtroom theatrics and Hamilton protested. Then the judge reprimanded him and said he was in on it. But since nobody bothered to tell Hamilton, that just makes him look unfairly ridiculous. If Perry’s going to tell the judge, it seems it would only be right to tell Hamilton too. In later seasons, he would have told them both. Several times in seasons 7 and 8 we see them all conferring in the judge’s chambers. I’ll know more what I think when I see the episode again tonight. But it doesn’t seem like the judge should get prickly when he was in on the scheme and Hamilton didn’t have a clue.

Paul Drake’s Dilemma will be on tomorrow, and since I haven’t made a commentary post on that one yet, maybe I’ll plan that for the weekend post, after I’ve had a chance to see it again.

Season 3 is interesting in several ways, both good and bad. There were mostly TV-only scripts that season (as opposed to book-inspired). Sometimes the results were amazing, such as with Paul’s episode and The Prudent Prosecutor. Other times, as I recall, they continued to fall back on the book-inspired, wild and unfounded accusations towards Perry. Those stuck around through some of season 4 and then faded away, from what I can tell. (Which only makes their abrupt return in season 9 all the more bewildering.)

Also, I think season 3 is the only season in which William Talman is seen wearing bow ties. I wonder why. Were they especially popular that year? And why did he stop? Did he decide he really didn’t care for them? In any case, it’s an interesting look for him. Sometimes he wears a necktie in the first set of court scenes and then comes back with a bow tie for the second set.

Of course, season 3 is also the time when that disaster happened that resulted in William Talman’s arrest and subsequent suspension. I have to admit, I’m still puzzled as to exactly what really happened at that wild party, since William insisted he was innocent on all charges. But I figure that there’s probably no one left who really knows what happened (unless Barbara Hale or someone in the crew does), and that regardless, it’s really not important now. It’s over and done with, and William is thankfully remembered not for that but for his portrayal of Hamilton Burger—and his courage in speaking out against smoking.

When season 3 was on last year, I hadn’t prepared myself for those episodes coming up as soon as they did. I had thought season 3 finished alright and season 4 was where things first messed up. So when the cherub episode started and the truncated opening was first shown, I was rather unhappy. I later heard that they were in the middle of filming that episode when William was arrested. I wonder if any footage exists of Hamilton in that episode instead of a deputy.

Apparently in reality, the worst of the disaster must have been over by the time season 3 ended, since CBS decided to air two of their shelved finished episodes with William and test audience reaction. And the audience was willing to forgive and forget. Although I wonder why it took so long to get everything squared away when season 4 started up. I think Hamilton was only in three episodes in the first half of season 4, and two of those were the other episodes filmed earlier that year as part of season 3.

I confess, I really wish CBS would have been releasing the seasons as full sets and not in halves. I would love to have DVD copies of The Prudent Prosecutor and The Fickle Fortune, but that would entail buying the season halves that overall have very few episodes with Hamilton. Which puts them at the bottom of my priority list. I wish the prices on the second half of season 4 and all of season 6 would come down a bit.

(Speaking of season sets, CBS is finally going to release season 5 of Touched by an Angel this summer. And it’s reportedly going to be a full set, not a half, as they were doing with it before. Could this possibly mean anything where Perry is concerned? Oh wow, if season 7 would be released in one chunk . . . !)

I tried to figure out once the order in which I would rank the seasons. It’s probably drastically different from most people’s lists. From favorite to least favorite, I believe I ended up with:

Season 2
Season 6
Season 7
Season 8
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 1
Season 9

All the seasons that were the least book-inspired rank high. 3 and 4 hover around the middle, for their level of character presentation and development as well as the unfortunate absence of . . . certain persons. And the seasons that seemed more book-inspired rank lower.

Please note that I admit the plots of many book-inspired episodes are incredible. Gardner apparently did know how to write a good mystery, if those episodes are fairly accurate to his stories. But I rank character development higher than overall plot, so I frankly enjoy episodes in some of the other seasons much better. And anyway, I think some of the plots in seasons 7 and 8 are sadly underrated and are quite exciting and intense in their own right.

As a parting, I forgot to mention on Sunday that I started a new experimental Livejournal writing project. I’m afraid it’s getting me a bit sidetracked from the current mystery. I’m posting a short fanfic a day again, using this month’s writing prompts on 31 Days. And this time I’m exploring missing scenes from my story The Broken Ties. There were several things I wanted to get into but didn’t have the chance, and I’ve long wanted to try this project. This month’s themes made me decide that now is a perfect time.

I am gathering all of them under this link, if anyone wants to look. I got started late, so the first four themes will be posted on the 31st, along with the story for that day. They are not going up in chronological order, since the themes inspired me all over the place, but I always say where in the story they fit in.

I am a bit surprised with how these are coming out. They’re mostly darker than the original story, and some of them are more from the villains’ points-of-view. (Although the main focus appears to be Hamilton’s difficulties, since Vivalene wanted to specifically make things a horror for him.) My Vivalene character seems to want to be even more devilish than before, too. Hmm.

I’m particularly excited to post Saturday’s; it will have Leon and I’ll be trying to patch up any oversights I made with him in the original story.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Topical Episodes: Good Idea or Bad Idea?

I ordered the uncut version of The Renegade Refugee from Netflix and watched it early yesterday morning. My purpose was to see if there were any scenes with William Boyett that I hadn’t previously seen. (I think there was one.) I ended up with a topic for today’s post.

With the plot of the episode partially involving a missing WWII Nazi, I began to ponder. There are several episodes that are rather topical for the day, including that one and some others. Hence, they date the show more than the general episodes do. Is this good or bad? Or neither?

One thing I find really interesting about The Dick Van Dyke Show is how the creator insisted that there never be any mentions of current real-life events. Hence, perhaps more than many shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show’s storylines can smoothly fit into any modern time or place. The characters’ adventures could happen just as easily in 2012 as in 1962. Did the creator have foresight? Or did he just not want the series to become social commentary or a newsreel?

The typical Perry episodes are the same way, really. Oh, there might be a throwaway reference to a specific year, but it’s usually of little consequence to the plot and doesn’t matter that much. And sometimes they seem to go out of their way to not mention a date! Think of the many times Hamilton asks someone about, say, “March 3rd of this year.” Or last year. I don’t think he has ever given a date during any of the countless occasions he has asked about a day. Is that standard court procedure? Or just a way to keep specific years out of the show as much as possible? I wonder.

And then every now and then we get topical episodes, where years seem to matter a great deal. There’s a couple of episodes involving the Cold War, one a very intense adventure in season 9. They place the show firmly in the present day of its time, as do some of the military episodes, and just as with those, some people don’t seem to care for the concept. I’m unsure whether that’s because they think the show should take place in the 1930s, as per the early books, or if they would just rather Perry stuck close to home and the plots were things that could happen any time, rather than being topical.

I find nothing wrong with topical shows, in general. Some people like feeling that the characters are experiencing events that they, the viewers, have witnessed in real-life. It may make them feel even closer to the characters in that respect. Of course, since people of today are not experiencing those topical issues, that is also how shows or episodes become dated. But I believe that the episodes should be appreciated for what they are: voices of the times in which they were made.

One might think since I’m so insistent about moving the time period of Perry to the present of today (it’s something I can’t be shaken from), I wouldn’t care for those topical episodes even if I'm alright with them in other shows. Actually, the opposite is true. I usually love the topical episodes on Perry. I’m intrigued by what went on in decades past and I like the window to those events. The season 9 episode, The Fugitive Fraulein, is one of the only episodes without Hamilton that I particularly like. (Most I consider average at best, below average at worst.)

The same holds true for the long-running Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book series. I love reading installments from every time period. I enjoy seeing how they were written in the 1930s and 1940s just as much as I enjoy the books written in the 1990s. In fact, it’s partially the very fact that those characters endure through the years and adapt to every time period that I feel just fine about doing the same with the Perry cast. There’s no real way to reconcile that some of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures happened in what is noticeably decades past. But for those series, where time simply is not important, there’s also no real way to deal with the fact that the characters are perennially the same ages, from 1930 (or 1927) to now. It just must be accepted.

Several years ago, the comic publisher Moonstone decided to write new adventures about the 1970s character Kolchak: The Night Stalker. The creator himself made the decision that the new stories should take place in the present day, with the characters the same ages and no explanation necessary. Time isn’t important there, either—just the characters and the stories, all of which easily transplanted to the 2000s. I enjoy the new stories and the original series equally.

Of course, there were very rarely topical goings-on in those serials. But it was always clear what time period they took place in, so for me the principle is the same.

(And frankly, as far as my views on topical episodes go, and feeling that a reason for them is to feel closer to the characters, that is one of my big reasons for sliding the time period to the present day. I like thinking that they are experiencing things that I am now, while still keeping hold of the values from yesteryear, of course. The present day could benefit from a lot of those values being reinstated.)

When it comes to the topical episodes of Perry, I approach them the same way I approach any other Perry episode. Is the plot good? Are the characters engaging? Is it exciting and fulfilling? If the answers consist of Yeses, and I find they usually do, they are worthwhile episodes no matter the subject.

And when it comes to figuring out how episodes like The Fugitive Fraulein fit into my timeline, well . . . I haven’t yet. For the characters in The Misguided Missile, as I mentioned before, I just changed the war they fought in from Korea to Bosnia, since that wasn’t really a critical plot point. For the few episodes where time period is a critical plot point, I just sit back, enjoy them, and decide I’ll tweak them into my timeline if it ever becomes necessary. Which I don’t anticipate it will.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Notable Guest-Stars: William Boyett

Throughout the nine seasons of the series, there were countless guest stars who were invited back time and again. Many were quite familiar faces to fans of television. One such was William Boyett, who made a grand total of eight appearances over the nine seasons.

William Boyett, of course, is most highly remembered as playing firmly upright policemen. He portrayed them flawlessly on popular and long-running series such as Highway Patrol and Adam-12. Often when he guest-starred on shows, that was the sort of role they still wanted him to take.

On Perry, William B. played police six of the eight times, a private investigator one time, and a civilian one time. He appeared once in every season, except season 2, for some reason. Perhaps at that point he was too busy with Highway Patrol?

He was present almost from the start, as a motorcycle officer in season 1’s The Angry Mourner. He only had a very brief segment, one which is often cut from syndication prints. That is a pity for several reasons. Not only does it deprive us of seeing William B.’s wonderful acting, it’s an important little scene! Cutting it fiddles with the plot.

Some of his other appearances are also only very short walk-on segments, such as in The Ugly Duckling, The Mischievous Doll, and The Candy Queen. But in each he plays the kind of police character he is noted for and commands the scenes in which he appears.

Occasionally he was given more screentime. In season 3’s The Mythical Monkeys, he has at least two scenes as Paul Drake’s operative Pete Kelton. I haven’t seen this episode uncut, so it’s possible he even appears more than this. Pete is a character I continue to use in my stories. While the usually unseen Faulkner is probably Paul’s most referenced operative, I like using Pete since he was played by William Boyett. (I will probably bring in Faulkner at some point too, though. I love exploring little-seen characters with connections to someone in the main cast.)

He also has several scenes in season 5’s The Renegade Refugee. He is one of the men who attends the spiritual retreat each weekend, and upon hearing a commotion late at night in the monastery, he chides the participants to remember where they are. He turns up several times in court, silently watching the proceedings, and also gives testimony. I was worried whether he would end up being the killer, or otherwise crooked, but his character seems to be, by all indications, perfectly upright.

While he only appears briefly in season 6’s The Hateful Hero, I would say Officer Otto Norden is arguably his most important Perry character. He has a strong connection to a main character, even moreso than Pete Kelton to Paul. Otto is one of Andy’s close friends. He is going to be partnered with Andy’s cousin Jimmy, but on their first night together something goes wrong at a plastics company on their beat and Otto is killed.

Throughout the majority of the episode, suspicion is being cast on not just Jimmy, but Otto as well, and both are suspected of various criminal acts. Andy doesn’t want either of them to be guilty, but he fears at least one of them is. In the end, however, both are cleared—the victims of the “Hateful Hero” of the title. A former police officer, the murder victim blamed Otto for his dismissal from the force. After first trying to cast suspicion of robbery on him, the wretch decided to blame it on any police officer he could and chose Jimmy, before being murdered by his partner in crime.

William B.’s characters are fun to write for. Otto and Pete both appear in The Macabre Mansion, Otto as a spirit in several chapters while Andy is having an out-of-body experience after being fatally shot, and Pete off and on throughout. In an early chapter, Andy encounters him and is rather shaken by his resemblance to Otto. Pete also appeared in, I believe, both mysteries I wrote before that one, and in The Spectral Stalker. While he is an occasional player at best, he may become important in my current mystery The Denying Detective, considering Paul is a main focus in it.

I always look forward to seeing William Boyett pop up in various shows. And his guest spots on Perry are always a treat, even if he’s only present for a minute or two. It’s a shame he was never the main guest star in an episode; that would have been excellent! But I’m grateful for the screentime he did have.